Churches in North Lincolnshire are being urged to take advantage of the security offered by SmartWater as part of a concerted campaign to thwart thieves.
Crime reduction officers have paid visits to dozens of churches to encourage them to take up an offer of free SmartWater marking, following a string of roof lead thefts.
North Lincolnshire Safer Neighbourhoods Partnership is funding the initiative, which has been proven as a deterrent against the rising tide of metal being stolen for its scrap value.
Under the scheme the church roofs would be marked with the uniquely-coded SmartWater forensic solution. Every batch of the SmartWater solution is uniquely coded and registered to the legitimate owner thus providing traceability and proof of ownership for the police. Prominent signs warn that the lead is marked with SmartWater to discourage thieves from stealing whilst searches by the police, scrap metal dealers and SmartWater Investigators ensure that the lead cannot be easily sold on.
The head of regeneration at St Andrew’s Church, in Epworth, Melvyn Rose, has championed the SmartWater initiative for the NLSNP. He told the Epworth, Bells and Crowle Advertiser newspaper: “With permission from the police I took some lead left behind by thieves to a scrap merchant in Scunthorpe.
“The merchant’s electronic detector found SmartWater on it, so it certainly works. I felt like a criminal myself. I would recommend other churches got involved and painted their buildings accordingly.”
Repeated theft of roof lead and other metal items from churches can put their future in peril, with one North Lincolnshire church being targeted eight times in as many years, leaving it with a £33,000 repair and replacement bill and the real threat that it would have to be closed.
Reverend Jeremy Green, who overseas two churches in the area, told reporters: “SmartWater is a deterrent as it can be traced. Anything which deters these wretched people has got to be a good thing.”
A spokesman for Humberside Police said of the initiative: “It is hoped that using SmartWater to help mark key materials on the churches will enable us to identify stolen material when investigating a theft and help link a criminal to a crime, which will greatly increase the chances of getting a conviction.”